​Why allyship is critical in encouraging the next generation to pursue careers in finance

January 28, 2022


Gabrielle Kolotinsky

WCM University Member

Gabrielle is a Bachelor of Commerce student at Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in our nation’s capital, Ottawa. She is studying Finance and Economics. Her love of finance was sparked by her brother’s copy of The Wealthy Barber at age 8! Gabrielle gained a position on her school’s investment fund. Despite loving the research, she noticed a lack of gender diversity and focus on ESG issues and opportunities. Gabrielle shared with us what allyship means to her, how valuable she’s found WCM’s events in diversifying her outlook on the industry, and how to make the most of being a WCM University member.

Thanks for sharing about your experience with WCM Gabrielle! We love hearing stories from our members. A colleague on the student investment fund at Sprott introduced you to WCM, why did you decide to become a WCM member? I’ve seen first-hand the distinct challenges diverse individuals in finance face. I’ve witnessed individuals rejected because of their appearance and seen ideas more heavily scrutinized because of the person behind the voice. I am part of WCM because WCM elevates voices, provides key development opportunities that others may not receive on their own, and fosters connections between diverse and non-diverse individuals to level the playing field.

Amazing! Thanks for sharing a great example of how those small interactions make such a difference. What’s been the most valuable thing about being a WCM University Member? My first exposure to WCM was during the pandemic, at a WCM Virtual Networking event. As a young person pursuing finance, it was impactful to meet diverse individuals and hear their experiences. In many cases, the individuals described having one person who believed in them guiding their journey. I now see my role as both a mentee and a mentor – I want to pass it forward and be that person for younger students.

You were read The Wealthy Barber at age 8, that’s remarkable, can you share a bit more about how that happened and the impact it had on you? I have always been an avid reader. Growing up, that meant reading what my parents or siblings had around the house. Someone gifted my brother The Wealthy Barber when he was 11 years old. At the time I was only 8. I didn’t understand the concepts in the book until I was older, but the world of finance and business really fascinated me. Despite having good grades in math subjects, I was never seen as an exceptionally “smart student.” We referred to my brother as a “human calculator” and he was very quickly pushed into the world of accounting and finance. On the other hand, I was always told I should be a lawyer (with the underlying assumption that I was strong-headed - another word for “bossy.”) Prior to that I read a lot of fiction and I think reading a book about finance, money, and careers opened a whole new world to me. I pursued finance in university because it was unknown to me - or maybe I pursued it because I was stubborn and wanted to prove to everyone that I could. Either way, I fell in love with finance along the way.

Wow! Thank you for your openness and honesty in sharing how you became interested in finance. That narrative you mentioned about having good grades in math but not being seen as a smart student is so widespread this is one of the many reasons WCM hosts our In2Fin (formerly SheBiz) event to showcase to diverse students the pathways available in business, finance, and STEM.

Obviously, your brother's copy of the book had a significant impact on your decision to pursue finance, how do you think men can be better allies to women and other underrepresented people groups in finance? I think that we perhaps unfairly categorize men and women. My brother was encouraged to pursue business and he left the industry dissatisfied. I was told I should be a lawyer and tried litigation through school co-op placements and determined it wasn’t for me. I think redefining (or altogether abolishing) these categories is the role in which men and women need to address in the finance industry.

The industry has historically targeted a specific type of individual. If you want to pursue finance, you are expected to make all the preparations before entering post-secondary – it’s a challenge for individuals who do not fit the specific demographic to know what finance is about before they reach post-secondary. That is where allyship comes in. I think if you are successful within this industry, it is your job to pass that information along. That means sharing with individuals who likely aren’t male or have family ties or generational knowledge i.e., other underrepresented people groups. That also includes male-identifying individuals especially those who do not come from legacy backgrounds.

We talk about allyship as primarily a male task, but women can support men too. The finance world should be about distributing capital and all perspectives should be encompassed in those decisions. What I think about when considering diversity in the finance industry, is how more perspectives provide more insight into the world around us. We are trying to be the best in our fields and consistently learn and improve - surrounding ourselves with different skillsets can help pinpoint where we lack expertise. Men need to keep these conversations going, they need to be mentors in the space, and they need to be open to a world that looks a little different than it does today.

You’ve provided a strong view and perspective on what it means to be an ally and allyship. What do you think is one thing everyone should do to drive ED&I? The best thing anyone can do to drive ED&I is to listen. We surround ourselves with people who look, act, and think like us. It is important to intentionally include individuals from outside our circles – and LISTEN to what they have to say. Sometimes this makes for uncomfortable situations when individuals have different perspectives, but that is the point. To drive ED&I we all need to step outside our comfort zones.

This was a fantastic conversation Gabrielle, thank you once again for your openness, candor, and perspectives.

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